Genes may play a role in cravings

Genes may play a role in cravings

It’s common for people to crave fatty foods as their brains are biologically wired to reach out to eat foods that are high in fat and sugar, but for those with two genetic variants that play a role in the way the brain responds to high-calorie foods,  cravings may increase, making them eat more high-calorie foods, according to a recent study presented at the Obesity Society’s Annual Conference in Los Angeles, Calif.

“The brain is a very adaptable organ,” says Dr. Smriti Wagle, neurologist at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill. “Neurotransmitters can adjust based upon experiences and exposure, but being aware of this phenomenon and closely monitoring what we are putting into our bodies may help prevent the negative effects of unhealthy cravings. Keeping a food log could also be beneficial as the mere act of writing down what you are about to eat may help you make better food choices.”

In the study, researchers looked at how the two gene variants acted in the brain of 45 European individuals 19 to 55 years old who were asked to view pictures of high-calorie and low-calorie foods.

Using a MRI machine, participants were asked to evaluate the pictures and select which ones were more appealing. During the MRI, those with a variant near the FTO gene, which predisposes are person to obesity, revealed greater brain reaction as they looked at high-calorie versus low-calorie foods. Not only did these individuals experience increased brain activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, they also identified the high-calorie foods as more appealing.

This activity is caused by dopamine signals in the brain, which leads the subject to experience more cravings and satisfaction with high-calorie foods.

Researchers said this could explain, in part, why some people are more likely to become overweight or obese. Scientists also said the unprecedented results could lead to more successful solutions in the treatment of obesity.

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One Comment

  1. Rosemary Mueller
    Rosemary Mueller, MPH, RD, LDN November 11, 2015 at 11:49 am · Reply

    Thank you for this fascinating and important article. Although there is no single factor responsible for an individual’s propensity to be obese, but rather, a combined impact of poor lifestyle habits, research seems to be supporting the fact that we don’t all have the same genetic predispositions, which does indeed make it more challenging for some people.. I highly support Dr. Wagle’s suggestions as this is part of our approach at Advocate Weight Management. Individuals interested in further help with weight management can contact us at 847 990-5770.

About the Author

Mickey Ramirez
Mickey Ramirez

Mickey Ramirez, health enews contributor, is the director of Brand Services. He enjoys kimchi, honesty and a room with a view. He claims to not be a writer, but he occasionally learns information that is just too important to keep to himself.